White is a bit of a theme…
My early transport was no colour choice of mine, I had what I could afford.
The first car was a mainly rust and partially dull-blue paint Ford Anglia, fitted with a 1500 engine from a Classic, a skimmed head, Weber carb and wide wheels. The starter motor only had one bolt so it lived in the boot and the car was always push started, you had to keep it well tuned. It had belonged to a young lad who didn’t have a licence and couldn’t drive so I bought an old Honda C50 moped and swapped for it. Due to the rusty fuel tank the idle jet would always block after a short while so I kept a spare clean jet in the glove box, then I could change it when I parked or stalled at traffic lights. This car was with me in my first year at university, there was always someone who needed a lift and could give me a push. I mentioned the car was mainly rust; the main earth terminal occasionally came away and all of the electrics would die. It was a simple thing to reach down in the engine bay and flash the terminal against a piece of body for it to temporarily weld in place. Bolting the terminal back on, when I got back to University, was also temporary as the local bodywork was mainly rust. The only time the complete loss of electrics was exciting happened one winter night on a dark, fast country road. The car suddenly went quiet, all lights out and pitch-black outside. I couldn’t see a thing and I was moving at about sixty miles an hour. I gently slowed the car to a halt all the while braced and waiting to crash. When I came to a halt I breathed a sigh of relief, swore a bit, and stepped out of the car. As usual, I opened the bonnet, and flashed the earth lead back in place. The headlights illuminated a farmers field, I was no longer on the road, I had just driven neatly through an open field gate at a T junction! I didn’t close the gate as I drove away, who knows, maybe someone else would need it open when their lights failed?
I swapped the Anglia for an Ariel Leader motorbike, a strange two-stroke beast with leading-link front forks. The Leader was not a thing of beauty but it taught me basic motorcycle road awareness. (things like Diesel and oil spills, wet manhole covers, people opening car doors etc.etc.)
That bike didn’t last long as I bought a beautifully looked after Ford Zodiac Executive in Silver Fox and Red for £200. This car was a three litre V6 with a bench seat and three-speed column change. It was magnificent with a stupidly large bonnet, chronic understeer and great comfort. I used this car for 12-car rallying at university and had great fun trying to get it to perform. I could fit a whole group of chums, three in font and four in the back and regularly drove to London from Bath.
Eventually I sold it for £200 with one Macpherson strut seized so it was handling like an arthritic crab (it ‘hopped’ around right-hand bends). I then went back to two wheels and rode a motorbike for a few years, during which time I gained a full bike licence. I also had access to my mates’ British motorbikes which are now considered valuable classics.
By now I was working, and at evenings and weekends I drove my wife’s lime-green 850 Mini that became our first family car. The subsequent family cars (Mk3 Escort hatch, Vauxhall Astra estate, E Class Estate, Golf Estate) have been my wife’s cars, its up to her to write about them.
I no longer have a motorbike as my wife sold it as too dangerous for a father of two. I still hanker for British classic, nothing with great performance, maybe a BSA A65 Lightning, like my mate Pete Turner had?
White One – Number One, my first firm’s car was a white Ford XR2 Ford’s first ‘hot’ hatchback. I drove it rather fast but never came to grief, always managing to get round corners. It was written off by one Louis Mascarenas who hit it with his Escort van whilst I was parked off the side of the road waiting for him to pass as he came the other way. He had driven down a hill way too fast, hit his brakes in panic, and lost control when there was plenty of room to drive past. My wife was in the car as was my baby daughter and our dog. Our baby had belt bruises, my wife hit her legs under the dash and our dog dented her food bowl with her teeth. Jess, my dog, was understandably upset about being rammed and when I let her out she saw me shouting at the other driver so she flew at him and started biting. I admit I did nothing to call her off. That was the only time she ever hurt anything in her whole life, basically the nicest dog ever, her one act of aggression. Our baby girl and I were pronounced fine after ambulance check ups but my wife went to hospital to be x-rayed (but was fine). My baby daughter and I went with the recovery truck and ate fish and chips whilst we waited to be picked up by relatives. Louis was done for dangerous driving, received a massive fine, was banned from driving for a year and my XR2 went to the scrap yard about a foot shorter than designed. Pity, it was a fun car.
White One – Number Two a white Vauxhall Cavalier SRi. This car was the best car I could get on my firm’s allowance after I was promoted to Associate and it served me well. This car wasn’t written off but there was one close shave on the A23 into Brighton. I was driving to a meeting for the rebuilding of the Grand Hotel (after the IRA bomb of the Conservative conference). I was driving rapidly down a section of dual carriageway when, up ahead, a lorry decided to do a U-turn across both carriageways. I don’t know how I stopped but the car spun 180 so I ended up facing the wrong way just a few yards from the trailer, phew! no contact! The lorry driver had stopped to watch my tyre-smoke and graceful spinning slide rather than getting out of my way. As I checked that I was still alive the lorry slowly drove away leaving me to face the on-coming traffic with my eyes bulging and shaking with adrenaline. I had to pull a handbrake turn to be the right way round but then drove slowly to my meeting being overtaken by everything as my adrenaline levels subsided.
White One – Number Three a used/demonstrator white Volvo 940 Wentworth Turbo Estate. This car went really well but understeered if driven too joyfully. It served to carry all sorts of stuff and was a great family car and loaded with options. I remember, when it started to puff white smoke, that I took it in to the dealer garage and asked for a diagnosis of the issue, knowing that the turbo was having problems. It was so satisfying to hear the mechanic say “what idiot serviced this? You need a new turbo and its going to be expensive”. I went to the glove box and pulled out the service book and said “It was you!”. I had a free turbo fitted. Unfortunately after three year’s service this car was written off when a driver in front slammed on his brakes for no good reason on a clear road. My fault, I know, but honestly it was a bizarre place to brake so violently. I almost stopped in time but didn’t. I stopped a mere few centimetres inside the guy’s bumper line, having felt the ABS hammering at my foot. Those few centimetres intrusion caused front panel damage which was more than a third of the car’s value.
Time out from white: I then had a blue Audi A6 Estate that our dog Jess decided was ok, especially the plastic load cover which made a great chew toy on long runs and only survived a few days. When it was time to change cars my wife had her own estate car so I was able to ditch the estate carrying capacity. The A6 was followed by a gold Mercedes E350, nothing much about this one except it had loads of space, was comfortable and great for long runs. (It was about then that I bought my first E-Type at this time, an Ascot Fawn SIII V12 2+2, and ordered the restoration of my Blue SI 3.8 FHC E-Type). I then had a gold CLS 350, a true Marmite car. I loved its looks, even though many others couldn’t agree. When it went I wanted another so ordered one in Indium Grey (which should be called Turd Brown). It was an awful colour and I hated it, I am stumped as to why I let my P.A. choose it. Why did Mercedes call it grey when it patently wasn’t? When the car was only three months old I was trying to get home and ended up getting the car a little wet. Somewhere near Gloucester, in some of the worst floods (23/7/07) I have ever known, I tried to ford what I thought to be a large area of shallow surface water. The car conked out in the middle of the temporary but impressive river (no I did not hydraulic the motor, it was just wet electrics). Water came through the pedal gaiters and soaked the footwell. Apparently they can never guarantee the fibre-optic controls once wet, even after drying them out, and replacing them involves a complete strip down of the car… so it was written off.
Anyway, one of the memorable things was phoning the Mercedes Executive recovery service on one of the worst motoring nights in history. The call went something like this.
Recovery Man: "Good evening, Mercedes Recovery, are you a woman?". Me: "Er.. no", Recovery Man: "Are you pregnant?" Me: "No..." Recovery Man: "Well are you, perhaps, stood on your car roof with your children waiting for recovery?" Me: "No" Recovery Man: "Well F#ck off then!"
The line then went dead… a damp, peculiar, night in the middle of nowhere continued. Obviously there were a lot more serious rescue cases out there in the dark and being an ‘Executive’ counted for little, quite right.
Next morning I looked at my car and everything that was motorised, seats, steering wheel, mirrors etc..etc.. had moved to one or another extreme of adjustment. The controls had been having fun by themselves all night and the battery was flat. Had I slept in the car I would have been crushed against the steering wheel as everything inside wandered around and the doors were failed locked. As it happened I had slept under a pool table in a village pub in the midst of many other stranded motorists. The next week I ordered a Black CLS350. All of the Mercedes were excellent cars to drive and very comfortable, just not good as submarines.
White One – Number Four a white Jaguar XF S, a splendid car that served me well as my last car on the business, I was sad to see it go and maybe would have bought it off the lease company if their valuation wasn’t so stupidly over-priced. I should have followed it to auction where I could have bought it for a song. I must say that this car and subsequent offerings from the Indian run company have been nothing short of brilliant and up to standard with the proud Jaguar tradition of Grace, Space, and Pace.
White One – Number Five a white Porsche Cayman S, my first personally-owned car after many years of firm’s lease cars. I drove this for the last 18 months before I retired and for about a year after. It was a revelation in performance and handling. I am now a confirmed Porsche fan. I bought this used car because it allowed me to access a bargain in engineering excellence. I am not ashamed to say that the car was a much better car than I am a driver, it never felt as though it was going to misbehave no matter how hard it was pushed.
A Mental Aberration something in me thought owning an American muscle car would be fun so I bought and imported a Garnet Red 1969 Chevelle SS with a 454cu in motor. It looked great, but it drove like a greased pig on roller skates and made you seasick wallowing around bends (Imagine Captain Pugwash and his Black Pig trying to tack around Cape Horn). Americans of the 60’s could not design suspension or any part of handling, nor could they design interior trim. In truth, they are still crap unless they are designing something really special like the Ford GT. The Chevelle Engine and looks were fantastic, everything else absolute rubbish. I have scratched that itch and sold the car. Hopefully someone who only drives in straight lines, does not suffer sea-sickness and likes buying tyres will enjoy it?
White One – Number Six a white Cayenne S, bought to travel with my wife and our dogs to France and also to make a major driving trip to Iceland in comfort (via ferry Denmark – The Faroes – Iceland). I’ve still got this car and will make the trip in May 2018.
So that is 17 cars since 17 years old (I am now 61) and six have been white. Of those I for which I have chosen the colour it is six out of 11 that have been white (for the other colours I blame peer pressure and other’s offered opinions).
On with White One- Number Seven the Cobra! (OK, I know, it has blue stripes)